What is quiet hiring in the workplace?

Quiet quitting and quiet firing are HR concepts that have both made headlines over the last few years. In this article, we tackle the next ‘quiet’ buzzword: quiet hiring. 

Key facts: 

  • Quiet hiring can help organisations to increase the skills they have available without increasing their headcount — saving them time and money. 

  • There are many different ways to ‘quietly hire’, including leveraging the services of non-permanent workers. But the term is more commonly used to describe upskilling employees and redistributing work to make sure the most important tasks get done. 

  • Quiet hiring comes with lots of advantages for both businesses and employees — but there are some challenges involved too. It’s important to tread carefully so you don’t end up with burned-out, overworked or dissatisfied employees.

What is quiet hiring? 

Quiet hiring is when an organisation acquires new skills without hiring any additional employees. Sometimes, that means taking on temporary workers like contractors, freelancers or gig workers. But more often, it refers to the practice of using existing employees to fill skills gaps. 

Some companies do this by assigning certain employees to new roles where their skills are more valuable. Others help employees to expand their capabilities through training, upskilling, reskilling and stretch assignments. 

The advantages of quiet hiring for companies 

Here are some of the advantages that quiet hiring can bring to an organisation:

  • Cost savings compared to hiring new employees: The biggest benefit of quiet hiring is that it saves you both the cost of paying another salary and the various costs involved in recruiting an employee. While there may still be other costs, quiet hiring will almost always be more cost-effective than hiring a new employee. 

  • Fast access to critical skills: The average time-to-hire (T2H) in the UK is around six weeks, with niche, technical or senior roles often taking much longer to fill. Quiet hiring allows you to access the skills you need much more quickly. 

  • Improved retention and engagement: When employees understand that there will be opportunities for progression within your organisation, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. They’re also less likely to look for another job elsewhere. 

  • A more skilled workforce: Quiet hiring involves allowing employees to take on extra responsibilities or temporarily work in different teams or functions. Over time, you’ll develop a well-rounded workforce with a variety of skills that can be put to use on other projects.

Using quiet hiring to combat skill shortages

According to a recent Manpower Group survey, 80% of UK employers are currently struggling to find talent with the skills they need. At the same time, the uncertain economic climate means that many are slowing down hiring or freezing it altogether.

That means that many businesses are trying to do more with less in 2023 — and quiet hiring could be the solution. By upskilling current employees or reallocating them to positions where their skills are most useful, companies can avoid the need to source talent in a competitive market. 

The role of HR in quiet hiring 

HR teams have an important role to play in rolling out quiet hiring efforts. 

First, they can use workforce analytics to spot staffing opportunities and challenges. For example, they may identify a skill gap in a particular department, but also note that another department has several employees with those skills who could be reallocated. 

Here are some of the other things HR can do to assist in the quiet hiring process:

  • Developing learning and development initiatives to upskill employees

  • Adjusting the compensation strategy to account for employees taking on extra tasks 

  • Working with managers to set performance assessment criteria for those in new roles

  • Conducting employee satisfaction surveys to detect early signs of burnout

Career trajectory and other advantages for employees

Of course, there are also advantages to quiet hiring from the employee perspective. Most notably, quiet hiring gives employees the opportunity to advance within their organisation by taking on additional responsibilities that could lead to a permanent promotion. 

Quiet hiring also lets employees develop new skills. This might be achieved through training, or through temporary stretch assignments, where they are asked to perform a task that’s currently beyond their knowledge or skill level. 

Employees who are working temporarily in different departments often make connections with other professionals, who they may not otherwise have come into contact with. They also have the opportunity to try working in different areas of the business without having to commit to a long-term career change. 

And lastly, taking on extra responsibilities usually comes with a pay rise — which is another advantage for employees. Even when this isn’t possible, employees can (and should) negotiate for other benefits like bonuses, extra time off or flexible hours. 

Possible disadvantages of quiet hiring 

As we’ve seen, quiet hiring can have some major benefits for both employers and employees. But there are also some disadvantages for both parties. 

For employers 

In some organisations, employees might resent having to take on extra responsibilities, feeling that their employer is taking advantage of them. And employees performing tasks that don’t fall within their area of expertise can result in poor performance — at least in the short term. 

Plus, quiet hiring can sometimes create the very problem it’s trying to solve: when you redeploy an employee, you create a gap in their former team.

Much of this can be avoided with a well-thought-out strategy. For example, rather than directly replacing every reallocated employee, you might be able to divide an employee’s former responsibilities among a few people. 

You should also make sure that you’re treating employees fairly, and that every increase in responsibility comes with an appropriate increase in either pay or benefits. While this does represent some extra cost, it’s still far less than recruiting a new full-time hire. 

For employees 

While quiet hiring can give employees the opportunity to expand their skills and try new things, it can also cause problems. If employees are asked to take on too many extra responsibilities, they may end up overworked, stressed and even burned out

Plus, employees might be asked to perform tasks that they’re not interested in, and which weren’t part of their original job description. This can result in frustration and job dissatisfaction. 

Ultimately, all of these things hurt the company too. Employees who are burned out or dissatisfied with their roles are unlikely to do their best work — and may even end up looking for work elsewhere. 

Build the workforce you need with Personio

Quiet hiring is a valid strategy for reducing your staffing costs while building a stronger, more productive workforce. When it’s done right, it enables companies to expand the skills they have in-house, without the expense of hiring new full-time employees. But, like any other HR initiative, quiet hiring is only effective if you have the right tools. 

Personio is an all-in-one HRIS system that can give you the workforce data you need to spot opportunities and challenges related to your staffing needs. You can also use Personio to seamlessly roll out targeted training programmes to help your employees develop their skills, and to track performance as employees move into new roles or take on stretch assignments. 

Plus, Personio lets you automate, streamline and simplify a whole range of HR tasks. That gives you back the time you need to focus on strategic HR work like implementing quiet hiring practices at your organisation. 

Want to find out more? Book your free demo to get started. 

Frequently asked questions about quiet hiring 

Here are the answers to some FAQs about quiet hiring. 

Is quiet hiring good or bad? 

There are many advantages to quiet hiring for both businesses and employees — but it also comes with some downsides. It’s important to put some thought into your quiet hiring practices to ensure employees feel valued and that no one takes on too much. 

Is quiet hiring just a trend? 

Quiet hiring is a new buzzword, but the concept of upskilling your existing workforce to avoid making new hires has existed for a long time. However, we may see quiet hiring becoming more common as UK businesses try to remain competitive in an increasingly difficult economic climate. 

Yes, quiet hiring is legal. It’s simply the practice of using alternative means to increase the skills within your organisation instead of hiring new employees — there’s nothing illegal involved.  

Is quiet hiring the opposite of quiet quitting? 

Quiet quitting is when employees put in only the bare minimum effort to keep their jobs. Essentially, it means that employers end up with the same headcount, but lower productivity — which is the opposite of the goal of quiet hiring. 

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